Over 45 million people in US are impacted by tinnitus according to the National Tinnitus Association. If you have it, rest assured you are not alone. There is no cure, and it’s not always clear why some people get tinnitus. Discovering ways to deal with it is the secret to living with it, for most. The ultimate checklist to tackle tinnitus is a great place to start.
Getting to Know Tinnitus
About one in five people are living everyday hearing sounds that no one else can hear because they suffer from tinnitus. The perception of a phantom sound caused by an inherent medical issue is the medical description of tinnitus. In other words, it’s a symptom, not a sickness itself.
The most prevalent reason people develop tinnitus is hearing loss. The brain is attempting to fill in some gaps and that’s one way of thinking of it. A lot of the time, your mind works to interpret the sound you hear and then decides if you need to know about it. As an example, your friend talking to you is only sound waves until the inner ear changes them into electrical signals. The brain translates the electrical impulses into words that you can understand.
You don’t actually “hear” all the sound that is around you. The brain filters out the sound it doesn’t think is important to you. You may not hear the wind blowing, for instance. Because it’s not essential, the brain masks the sound of it as it passes by your ears even though you can feel it. It would be confusing and distracting if you heard every sound.
When someone suffers from certain forms of hearing loss, there are less electrical signals for the brain to interpret. The brain waits for them, but due to damage in the inner ear, they never come. The brain might try to create a sound of its own to fill the space when that occurs.
Some Sounds tinnitus sufferers hear are:
The phantom noise may be high pitched, low pitched, loud or soft.
There are other reasons besides loss of hearing you might have tinnitus. Other possible causes include:
- Neck injury
- Acoustic neuroma
- Malformed capillaries
- Meniere’s disease
- Poor blood flow in the neck
- Tumor in the head or neck
- Loud noises near you
- Ear bone changes
- TMJ disorder
- High blood pressure
- Earwax build up
- Head injury
Although physically harmless, Anxiety and depression have been linked to tinnitus and can create problems like difficulty sleeping and high blood pressure.
Your Ear’s Best Friend is Prevention
Prevention is how you avoid a problem as with most things. Reducing your risk of hearing loss later in life begins with protecting your ears now. Check out these tips to protect your ears:
- Reducing the amount of time you spend wearing headphones or earbuds.
- When you’re at work or at home reduce long term exposure to loud noises.
- If you have an ear infection, consult a doctor.
Every few years have your hearing examined, also. The test not only points out hearing loss problem, but it enables you to get treatment or make lifestyle adjustments to prevent further damage.
If You do Hear The Ringing
Ringing means you have tinnitus, but it doesn’t tell you why you have it or how you got it. You can understand more with a little trial and error.
Find out if the sound goes away over time if you refrain from wearing headphones or earbuds.
Evaluate your noise exposure. Were you around loud noise the night before the ringing started? For example, did you:
- Work or sit near an unusually loud noise
- Go to a concert
- Listen to the music of TV with headphones or earbuds
- Attend a party
The tinnitus is probably short-term if you answered yes to any of these situations.
If The Tinnitus Doesn’t Get Better
Getting an ear exam would be the next thing to do. Some potential causes your physician will look for are:
- Stress levels
- Ear damage
- Ear wax
Here are some specific medications that may cause this issue too:
- Water pills
- Cancer Meds
- Quinine medications
The tinnitus might clear up if you make a change.
You can schedule a hearing exam if you can’t find any other apparent cause. Hearing aids can improve your situation and reduce the ringing, if you do have loss of hearing, by using hearing aids.
Because tinnitus is a side effect and not an illness, treating the cause would be the first step. If you have high blood pressure, medication will bring it down, and the tinnitus should go away.
Looking for a way to suppress tinnitus is, for some, the only way to live with it. A useful tool is a white noise machine. They produce the noise the brain is missing and the ringing goes away. You can also get the same effect from a fan or dehumidifier.
Another strategy is tinnitus retraining. The frequencies of tinnitus are hidden by a machine which emits similar tones. It can help you learn not to focus on it.
Also, avoiding tinnitus triggers is important. They are not the same for each person, so start keeping a diary. Write down everything before the ringing started.
- What did you eat or drink?
- What were you doing?
- What sound did you hear?
The diary will allow you to find patterns. You would know to order something different if you had a double espresso each time because caffeine is a well known trigger.
Your quality of life is affected by tinnitus so your best hope is finding a way to eliminate it or at least reduce its impact. To learn more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.